April 24, 2008

Burton: Coaches have only selves to blame

Hey, Ron Zook, are you joking?

You need to remove yourself from the glass house in which you apparently were sitting when you were quoted as stating the following about the new NCAA rule that prohibits head coaches from going on the road in the early evaluation period:

"We're turning the recruiting over to the so-called recruiting gurus," Zook told the Arlington Heights, Ill., Daily Herald. "Now, all of a sudden, just like you've got basketball coaches complaining that it's turning over to the AAU coaches, now we're turning it over to these guys that can call them.

"Well, you know what a lot of them are saying. They're selling their school to these kids, and we're not able to talk to them. To me, we're losing this thing, in my opinion."

You're worried about football becoming like AAU basketball, about Rivals.com or similar Web sites becoming a "handler" for recruits or influencing them? Come on.

Is the media or an Internet site such as Rivals.com perfect? No, we're not. But our eight-year record of following rules and acting judiciously is far better than that of several NCAA member institutions and the NCAA coaching fraternity as a whole.

Here are some of the things we're worried about and the things you should be worried about:

Albert Means and players like him being dragged through the ringer by his high school coach and several college coaches.

Coaches guaranteeing playing time to freshmen when those guarantees are hollow at best.

Coaches inexcusably "bumping" into prospects when it's clearly against the rules.

Prospects mysteriously becoming eligible academically.

Coaches and boosters sending envelopes full of cash to recruits.

Schools negatively recruiting. Why is it that so many coaches see fit to tear down the virtues of other programs instead of extolling the virtues of their own?

Recruits' parents suddenly turning up with jobs of exorbitant value in the towns where their son chooses to attend college.

Hearing that a university has "self-reported" a violation after conducting an investigation. A school investigating itself is clearly going to be "fair and balanced," right?

The media actually is party to this rule. If the Miami Herald and CaneSport.com, a member of the Rivals.com network, hadn't first reported on Nick Saban's alleged "bumps" of south Florida high school prospects nearly a year ago, this rule likely wouldn't have been put in place. The coaching community is calling this the "Saban rule" for that very reason.

The new rule has come about because of your profession's inability to work within the rules that govern them. Simply put, the NCAA doesn't want its head coaches going out in the spring because they don't trust you and your brethren.

This new rule has nothing to do with Rivals.com; it's not our job to recruit players, nor is any writer paid to recruit players to a school. It's our job to report about recruiting. Instead, the new rule has everything to do with your profession's inability to follow rules.

Even in the face of these new rules and professional scrutiny from other coaches, you personally continue to push the envelope. For example, your appearances at coaching clinics on high school campuses including an upcoming one at Chicago's Mount Carmel High is a possible circumvention of the new NCAA rules. At least that's how one conference's compliance folks ruled. The Big East already has told its programs they can't conduct these "clinics," ones exactly like you are conducting, on high school campuses during the spring evaluation period.

The by-product of this new rule won't be that Rivals.com or any media member will have greater control over where a recruit chooses to attend college. The only real by-product will be more NCAA regulations to keep you and other college coaches from trying to circumvent the system.

Again, the rule is about coaches. If they show they can play by the rules, maybe the NCAA will give them the power you feel they deserve.

Bobby Burton is the Editor-in-Chief of Rivals.com. He can be can be reached at bobby@rivals.com.


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